Those of you who do not follow the NBA might be familiar with some of basketball’s notorious headliners. There is New Jersey Nets player Jayson Williams, charged with fatally shooting a limo driver, and Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers franchise player, who has courted danger and nefarious associates since he was a teen-ager. There also is former Golden State Warrior (current New York Knicks player) LatrellSprewell, who yoked his coach. And there is the butt of the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers, whose players are jokingly referred to as the Jail Blazers because of run-ins on and off the court. Those and other Goliaths are the commonplace challenges of the NBA. So, when a David Robinson comes along, take notice.
David Robinson’s accomplishments are astonishing, especially given the fact that basketball is not his life. His college, Olympic and NBA records are too numerous to give proper detail to in my allotted space, but you can catch him in action tonight in the second game in the 2003 NBA Finals. Suffice it to say, before basketball, this future Hall of Famer liked to tinker with electronics as a youth, scored 1320 on his college boards and earned a mathematics degree from the Naval Academy.
An ideal citizen-athlete? Mr. Robinson doesn’t just mouth the words give back to the community, he lives them. He doesn’t merely call himself a Christian, he lives his life as a Christian.
Accordingly, future winners of the NBA’s Community Assist Award will also receive the David Robinson Plaque, whose inscription will read: “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece.”
“Piece by piece” is certainly accurate. Just as David Robinson is an extraordinary player in the world of professional sports — or, perhaps, because of professional sports — he is much more as a husband, father and role model.
He and wife Valerie are true Christian soldiers. The Robinsons help feed the hungry, diaper poor infants, aid single moms, enrich the souls of the spiritually needy and educate young children. They also give scholarship money to college aspirants. And, while this will certainly sound corny or perhaps remind you of something your Sunday School teacher might have said, the Robinsons will tell you and anybody who asks, that it is their faith in God that gives them the strength and the resources to do things that they otherwise might not have the strength or resources to do. “Jesus Christ, as my examplar, reached out to people in His community who had need. I want to show my love of God,” Mr. Robinson told Philanthropy in Texas magazine.
One of the Robinsons’ most notable philanthropies is Carver Academy, which Mr. Robinson calls “my heart and vision.” It is an independent school worthy of jealous turns from urban school superintendents everywhere. Most of the students at the academy near downtown San Antonio are Hispanic or black. Preschoolers are taught German, Japanese and Spanish, as well as sign language.
“Our young kids took the Stanford Achievement Test and they’re performing at least one grade higher, two grades most cases, and in some cases three or four grades higher in different things,” he told USA Today. “And these aren’t kids who were earmarked for excelling. These are kids straight from the neighborhood.”
The same Judeo-Christian values that guide the Robinsons — including sons David Jr., Corey and Justin — are the foundation of the Carver Academy: faith, discipline and integrity. And, interestingly, with all the criticism about faith-based programs and vouchers, the school has drawn donors large and small. The Robinsons themselves have donated $11 million to the school, while NBA players and others offer donations because of the Robinsons’ worthy vision.
You know, it’s funny. There’s no doubt that David Robinson’s celebrity helps bring resources to the Carver Academy, as well as the family’s other charities, such as Feed My Sheep and the Ruth Project. But, you know what? David Robinson views his NBA status as nothing more than a job. Oh, he’s grateful for his athletic talents — and all the blessings those talents have brought his way. But basketball is not who David Robinson is. Playing basketball is what he does — and what he has done well since playing but one year at Osbourn Park High in Northern Virginia before going to the Naval Academy.
This is David Robinson’s last season as a NBA player, and betting men expect his Spurs to beat the New Jersey Nets for yet another championship. What an honor that would be for him and his fans. As for life after basketball, his faith, his family and his community will continue as guiding lights — and thank God for that.